HOUSTON — A season-opening four-game series split against the White Sox, culminating in a 6-3 loss Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park that manager Dusty Baker categorized as an “ugly game,” certainly didn’t provide much enough sample size to make any major assumptions about 2023 Astros.
The team will get healthier – and presumably better – as it digs deeper into the season and finds its footing both offensively and on the mound. Alex Bregman’s slow start (0-for-16), coupled with injuries to Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley caused the Astros to struggle for production runs at times this weekend, and the lack of a good start put some early-season strain on the Bulls .
“We played really well,” Becker said. “They threatened every game today, just like they did the first game. They had a lot of runners on base and we got out of trouble a few times. I don’t know, just an ugly game.”
So let’s dig a little deeper. Here are some tips – and hopefully not overreacting – for the reigning World Series champions after four games in which they outscored the White Sox, 17-16, but were over 45-29:
The best word to describe it is incomplete. Until they can get Brantley back from shoulder surgery recovery (possibly later this month) and Altuve back from his broken thumb (he’ll miss the first two months of the season), the Astros will need others.
Houston’s team reached double-digit records only once in four games—coming on Saturday, when the team recorded 11 hits. The Astros had seven hits on Sunday, all of which were solo hits. Houston didn’t run an RBI until back-to-back singles by Jose Abreu (2-for-4) and David Hensley in the ninth inning, finishing 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“The White Sox are a good team,” said quarterback Chas McCormick. “They have some good clearances and I thought their pitchers had a good look today. As a group, we hit OK. Earlier in the series we had a couple of big hits and we needed a couple more today. We didn’t get ahead at the time, but I thought we played well.” It’s early season. We’ll be fine.”
In addition to Altuve and Brantley, the Astros also played Sunday without batter Yordan Alvarez, who got off to a solid start with RBI in all three games he played. Since he only had seven at-bats in the spring, Álvarez would not play every day for the first few weeks of the season. His bat is lost, but that’s about getting this player healthy late in the season.
“It’s a challenge,” Becker said. “How often do you go four games without Alex getting a hit? It’s set to get hot here. We’ve got some guys swinging bats really well. It didn’t go our way too much today. I’m sure they’re content to come out of here with a split. We wanted three of them.” Four, because they were in a position to get that day.”
stability in the season. None of Houston’s four starters completed five innings against the White Sox, as Luis Garcia gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings of work on Sunday. Astros pitchers have thrown 19 innings in four games, while catching 17 runs.
Last year, the club led the major leagues with 950 home runs, 43 more than any other team. The Astros relied on starters who get deep into games and get the fewest runs off their relievers. Garcia’s 91 pitches on Sunday were the most for pitchers in the rotation to start the year. Three of those four men experienced erratic springs after being pitched in the World Baseball Classic.
“Normally, you kind of run into the wall at 80-85 pitches, but we were hoping to get a bit of a [or through the sixth] “Because our country is taxed,” Baker said. “We were kind of trying to piece things together at the end.”
With Lance McCullers Jr. On the injured list to start the season, Houston’s starting depth can be tested, so it’s up to Hunter Brown to try and work deeper into the game when he starts Monday against the Tigers at Minute Maid Park. Second games featuring Framber Valdez on Tuesday and Cristian Javier on Wednesday should allow the relievers to catch a breath before the first rest day of the season.
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